WALLA WALLA - A successful 2012 football season for the DeSales Irish ended on a rainy November night in Spokane with a 21-14 Class 2B state quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Lind-Ritzville-Sprague.
If the Irish are to meet or exceed that showing in 2013, they will do it with only four starters returning on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
In spite of this, DeSales coach Mike Spiess believes his squad has the opportunity to reap numerous rewards — in the regular season and beyond.
“I am optimistic that we can be in the top three (of the Southeast 2B League standings), compete for the league title, and make a deep run in the playoffs,” said Spiess, who is entering his eighth season as head coach. “We have high expectations. We always expect to compete at the highest level. That’s become a trademark at DeSales.”
Those returning on offense include a trio of linemen — seniors Matt Jubb (6-foot, 1 inch, 210 pounds, guard) and Bradon Kimball (5-8, 160, center), and sophomore Bill Ferrera (5-7, 180, guard) — and junior Andrew Elmenhurst (6-1, 190), who will transition from tight end to running back, Spiess said.
Contenders to join Jubb, Kimball and Ferrera in the trenches are sophomores Cole Miedema (6-3, 170, guard/center) and Pablo Rodriguez (5-9, 220), senior Luis Contreas (5-9, 210) and junior Rob Kelly (5-9, 160), Spiess said.
Connor Richard (junior, 6-1, 190) is the projected starter at quarterback and Jarrod Koopman (junior, 6-7, 170) will fill the void left by Elmenhurst at tight end, Spiess said.
The competition at wide receiver is “wide open,” Spiess said. The group features seniors Darryl Galloway (5-8, 160) and Adam Eskil (5-11, 150), and a quartet of juniors — Isaiah Scheel (5-8, 160), Jackson Kent (5-7, 160), Chris Lopez (5-7, 160), and Tyler Jacobson (5-9, 150).
Galloway did not play in 2012 and Eskil is out for football for the first time since his freshman year.
“We’re inexperienced gamewise,” Spiess said, “but I’m pleased with our depth at that position.
“I’m pleased with their work ethic,” Spiess said when analyzing the offense overall. “The players did a good job of getting together this summer (to work out). It will take time for the offense to get up to varsity speed. We should be solid by mid-October.”
Defensively, Jubb returns at tackle, Elmenhurst — a linebacker — will move from the outside to the middle, and Scheel will likely return to a cornerback slot, Spiess said.
Richard started at defensive end a season ago, but will not this year due to his offensive duties, Spiess said.
Seeking spots on the defensive line will be Daniel Schack (5-10, 170), Rodriguez, Contreas, Miedema and Koopman. The latter two athletes are possibilities at end, Spiess said.
Those vying for an outside linebacker post are Kimball, Kaleo Healy (5-6, 160), and Nick Brown (5-8, 160).
Receiving candidates may also seek a starting position at defensive back along with sophomore John Crowley (6-0, 170), Spiess said.
“He’s a hard worker,” Spiess said of Crowley. “We’ve got to find a spot for him on the field.
“Our plan on defense is similar to last year,” Spiess said. “We want to establish a mentality of being relentless. We have to be solid while our offense progresses.”
When handicapping the Southeast 2B League, Spiess tabbed defending champion Waitsburg-Prescott as the favorite.
“Tri-Cities Prep will have a good team,” Spiess said. “Dayton’s and Asotin’s numbers are down, but Asotin is always pretty good.”
Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia will not be a part of the league mix this year, according to Spiess. Rosalia will compete in the eight-man ranks this fall, Spiess said.
DeSales opens its season Friday when it hosts LaSalle at 7 p.m.